Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

Encouraging Volunteer Work in After-School Programs

Part of the objectives of After-School Programs in Hollywood and Pembroke Pines in Florida is to cater to children's social and emotional learning, and one of the most effective means of instilling these categories of learning is through first-hand experience.

According to child psychologists, encouraging volunteer work for school-aged children, specifically for K-5 graders, is a good platform for their future holistic development. K-5 After-School Programs in Florida, along with many other states, have been integrating volunteer work within their curriculum because it has definite benefits for the kids in terms of their socio-emotional development. Encouraging volunteer work is also a useful tool for effectively teaching better character eduction among young learners.

However, educators also have to be aware of the age appropriateness of the volunteering activities children will engage in. The development of school-aged kids is fast but vary differently by age. Motor skills of first-graders are not yet quite as developed as a second-grader. Generally, kids' fine motor skills become greatly tuned by age seven. Interests and hobbies are also more readily observable in 8 year-olds than 7 year-olds. Principles from Piaget or Kohlberg have listed specific developmental skills for children for every age and being aware of these stages will surely aid the teacher in planning activities for the class.

Making a weekly plan for After-School Programs is usually easier to do than a monthly calendar of activities. This way, revisions or follow-up sessions can easily be done by the teachers. Some example of age appropriate activities would be making place mats for a soup kitchen by first-graders. This activity is more apt than actually serving a soup kitchen. For the older age group, teachers could ask them to lead a bike-riding safety seminar for their grade rather than conduct an anti-pollution seminar for their peers. The right activity for the right age makes all the difference in the effectiveness of the whole experience. By the end of this part of the curriculum, teachers can expect personal growth, an increased sense of social responsibility, and better interpersonal skills from the children.

Today, enrichment programs in Broward County have also began involving school children in annual volunteer work for retirement homes such as Park Summit and Covenant Village. Volunteer work has also made its way to many summer camp programs across the state including Dade County, Hollywood, and Pembroke Pines. Collected data on children's positive behavior have continuously increased since the adaptation of this activity to their curriculum.

After-school programs including tutoring may also opt to include this particular learning experience for the students especially for kids who are in trouble or those who have problems in their family. Studies from the Points of Life Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network have indicated that engaging troubled children in volunteer work gives them a greater sense of self-worth and increases the probability of staying in school and avoiding vices. Tutors for after-school programs can gradually introduce the concept of volunteering by discussing the importance of taking social responsibility for the community. However, leading the children to actually liking volunteer work can not be done in a single session. This is why educational field trips are important to the curriculum. Exposure to places that raises social awareness and sympathy for those in need helps children realize the need to be involved in serving people. Reinforcing their exposure to places such as retirement homes or orphanages with positive moral and social concepts will pave the way to more ready and willing young volunteers. Tutoring in Broward County and Dade County, Florida has involved over 300 kids in socially relevant work for over 5 years now.

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